The Federation of Tour Operators has warned that a trial in Greece could create health and safety checks that are impractical for its members to meet.

Director-general Andy Cooper’s remarks followed news that two former or existing Thomas Cook employees will stand trial in Corfu in connection with the deaths of two children.

Christianne Shepherd, seven, and brother Robert, six, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in October 2006, believed to be as a result of a faulty gas boiler in a holiday apartment at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel.

This week the Greek Judicial Council announced charges would be brought against the Thomas Cook staff as well as hotel managers and maintenance contractors. This goes against the district attorney’s recommendation in December 2007 not to prosecute the tour operator’s employees.

Cooper said that, if convicted, the case could have a huge impact on the package market. He said: “It goes as far as throwing into question the package holiday.

“If they are saying the responsibility for ensuring health and safety for hotels passes from local authorities to tour operators, that cannot be right as a matter of principle. It would send shock waves through the industry.”

Currently, operator staff in resort are not required to have technical expertise, but must check that standards have already been put in place by local authorities.

Thomas Cook said it was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the council’s decision.

Thomas Cook holidays division executive director Ian Derbyshire said: “We had a signed contract from Louis Group stating there was no gas in that property.

“We are a member of the FTO and completed an audit to FTO requirements based on the Greek government’s certificate of the hotel. We fully support our staff and are convinced they will be fully vindicated in the next few months.”

In a statement, Thomas Cook said that an investigation by an independent gas expert in October 2006 showed the trip switch on the gas boiler, which prevents the build-up of carbon monoxide, had short circuited.

Industry comments

“Comments made about greater requirements do not necessarily accord with the realities of tour operating. We will be very keen to see the outcome of this case.”
Derek Moore, chairman, Association of Independent Tour Operators

“It is quite shocking to think this could end up in court.”
Hugh Morgan, overseas purchasing and operations director, Cosmos

“This is of concern to anybody that operates any product overseas and has health and safety audits in place.”
Paul Riches, sales director, youtravel.com

“You normally follow the guidelines of the country and this could mean we’d have to go a step further. Tour operators do numerous checks and to be told your standards
aren’t good enough leaves you wondering where you stop.”
Daniele Broccoli, director, Typically Italian Holidays

“It is sad to hear that the individuals that are being picked out are from an operator that is so diligent in the way it operates.”
Terry Auld, development director of Argent Health and Safety, which runs ABTA’s Resort Check service